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Tag: Stanley McChrystal


Afghanistan: Vague words or vague thinking?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

When fighting a war, ambiguity is often useful; ambivalence, never.

The disputes that led to the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week exposed a little too much ambivalence about Afghanistan in the Obama administration. Among the revelations in the Rolling Stone article that brought down McChrystal was his cavalier – even contemptuous – attitude toward Joe Biden, AKA “Who’s that?”

Biden apparently doesn’t think much of the official strategy in Afghanistan. He opposed the build-up of troops Barack Obama has approved and had instead argued for a much smaller anti-insurgent strategy with a short half-life.
Obama has linked an American withdrawal from Afghanistan to July of 2011. No one – maybe not the president himself – knows the precise nature of that link.

In a new book, “The Promise” journalist Jonathan Alter quoted Biden as saying, “In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.” But Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called that date “a starting point,” and that any withdrawal would depend on what’s actually happening on the ground.

Obama may be on the same page. On Sunday, he said the United States won’t necessarily “suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us” on that magic date.

But the president isn’t saying anything concrete about how fast and under what conditions the troops would be pulled out – all we really know is that he’s being far more vague and guarded than the loose-lipped Biden.
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A gifted commander, McChrystal still had to go

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Relieving a capable commander in the middle of a war is a high-risk move. In the case of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, it’s a risk Barack Obama had to take.

Until this week, McChrystal looked like America’s best bet to hold the Taliban at bay and buy Afghanistan’s weak government enough time to secure the country.

American troops have been complaining about the civilian-friendly rules of engagement he has imposed, but McChrystal understands a fundamental truth: The Taliban cannot be defeated unless the Afghan population turns against them. Protecting civilians – from the Taliban, but also from American bombs and bullets – is the only way this can happen.

McChrystal is the architect of NATO’s strategy in Afghanistan, which has much in common with the strategy Gen. David Petraeus successfully used to turn around the war in Iraq.

Afghanistan and Iraq are very different countries, and there’s not the least guarantee that McChrystal’s plan can replicate Petraeus’ success in Iraq. But despite the recent spike in U.S. casualties, pessimism is also premature.
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Whereto leadership, Mr. President and Gen. McChrystal?

Would you like to be a fly on the wall during President Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “come to Jesus” meeting scheduled for tomorrow? I sure would. Talk about an example of leadership under pressure – on both sides!

If I could offer a few words of unsolicited advice, here’s what I’d say to them both.

To Gen. McChrystal:
You are the commanding general in this operation, the boots on the ground. Nobody knows the situation in this war better than you do. But that does not give you the green light to opine about our country’s administration and

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